The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency which regulates and enforces the federal anti-discrimination statutes, recently announced that more individuals with disabilities filed charges last year than at an other time in the twenty (20) year history of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Almost 20,500 ADA-related claims were filed with that agency in 2009.
The main reasons for the increase seem to be a combination of the recession, with its stubbornly high unemployment, and an amendment to the ADA which broadened the definition of what it means to be disabled. The amendments, which went into effect in 2009, undid limitations on the ADA imposed by the United States Supreme Court in a series of ruling beginning in 1999. In short, the Supreme Court had restricted the reach of the ADA by excluding people whose disabilities were not visible or were controlled by medication, such as epilepsy or diabetes. Congress abrogated these rulings, thus expanding the definition of “disabled” under the law, which has consequently allowed more individuals to seek redress under the law.